My Special One’s Birthday: The Appetizer

April 2012

As for this birthday dinner, let’s start at the beginning… a very good place to start!  I recently had a revelation- tomatoes are starting to taste good again!  The mealy, mushy, wintry days are coming to a close, gradually being replaced by bright red bursts of nature’s candy!  Tasting the improvement in the well traveled tomatoes really heightens my excitement for the summer produce that currently is soaking up the soil’s nutrients!

When I saw this tomato rich appetizer with speck and burrata, I began adding its ingredients to my grocery list immediately!  Though there are a few steps involved, the overall simplicity of this appetizer enabled me to focus more on the main course, which was to be quite …. well, I’ll dive into that later!

This Italian Bella had a different purpose in the birthday affairs, but she was just so photogenic…!  However, had tomatoes not begun to boast fresher, sweeter flavors, I may have called upon her contents in the tomato vinaigrette.

Burrata, Pickled Shallots & Speck Appetizer
Adapted from Bon Appétit 

Pickled Shallots

3 large shallots, trimmed, quartered lengthwise
1 cup champagne vinegar
1 cup turbinado sugar
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
1 sweet red pimiento pepper (I used Roland’s)

For the Pickled Shallots

Combine all ingredients and 1 cup water in a small saucepan.

Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar.

Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.

You could use prosciutto in this recipe, but why would you?  On the fateful day in life when I went speck, I solidified my path through this cured life!

Basil and Burrata pair well and boost the alliterative properties of this appetizer!  Burrata is a soft, fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream.  It’s not a cheese I would prioritize in my regular frommage habits, but for recipes like this, it’s a perfect compliment. If you’re a Pittsburgher, I would suggest Pennsylvania Macaroni Company for sourcing most of the ingredients in this appetizer.  The burrata is sold in an extra layer of plastic container protection to maintain its moisture.

Tomato Vinaigrette

1/2 cup chopped ripe tomatoes
1 bunch fresh basil, coarsely torn
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon turbinado sugar
3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the Vinaigrette

Combine the tomatoes, basil, vinegar, salt and sugar in a food processor and puree until chunky (or to the best of your old food processor’s abilities).

While the motor is still running, add the oil in a slow, steady stream until vinaigrette is slightly thickened.

Final Touches

Speck
Burrata
French Baguette (from La Gourmandine in my case)
Parsley
Black pepper

For the Final Touch

Slice the baguette, and drizzle a little olive oil on each slice of bread.

Top each slice with a roll of speck, a dollop of burrata, a spoonful of tomato vinaigrette, a slice of shallot, a drizzle of the pickled shallot sauce and parsley.

Season with black pepper. Serve with fresh tomatoes.

A Note On The Leftovers

When I served leftovers of this the next day, I toasted the oiled baguette slices in the oven before garnishing, but the first time around, I hated to toast a fresh, fluffy baguette.  The tomato vinaigrette and pickled shallots also spiced up an organic frozen pizza I lazily made on a weeknight.

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